85 Backpacking Tips for Travel in Southeast Asia!

Tru Travels Thailand

Travelling for the first time is daunting. So, rather than let you spend sleepless nights worrying about being ripped off by taxis and using a squatty potty (we’ve all been there), we’ve put together this epic list of the top tips for travelling Southeast Asia! 

With our combined knowledge, which equates to over a decade of living, working and travelling through the region, plus the experiences of our Facebook community of 20,000+ travellers, we’ve compiled 85 of the best Southeast Asia travel tips! 

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Planning Tips for Southeast Asia

You’ll likely need to do a chunk of organising before you jet off and these planning tips for Southeast Asia will help! 

1. Check the Visa Situation 🛂

Before leaving for Southeast Asia, check whether you’ll need visas! Many countries offer some level of visa-free entry or visa on arrival (VOA), which ranges from 14-90 days. 

If you want to stay longer, you’ll need to get a longer visa in advance, or do border runs (although these aren’t always possible in some countries). 

Thailand and Vietnam Visa
Know which visas you need in advance!

2. Keep Track of Your Visa End Date 📆

Overstaying your visa is a punishable offence. In some countries, it’ll be a small fine but in others, it can be jail time. Know when your visa expires, so you can either extend it or leave. 

“Keep track of your visa end date. I recently had to extend one of mine because I lost track of time, which is very easy to do in Southeast Asia!’’– Laura.

3. Plan a Loose Itinerary ✈️

A rough itinerary will help you organise any visas and required vaccines before you set off. Plus, knowing how long you’ll be on the road will make it easier to budget.

“If you like a place – stay there. The number of places is not as important as getting the most out of places you love.” – Samantha.

👉 Read More: Kick Ass Southeast Asia Itineraries

4. But Go With the Flow 🌊

Make sure your itinerary isn’t set in stone. You’re bound to meet people, hear about cool places or want to hang in chill spots for a little longer. A flexible itinerary will help you make the most of your trip! 

“Don’t plan too far ahead and don’t try to plan every detail. Travel is more fun when you don’t know everything ahead of time!” – Cassy.

5. Onward Travel 🛬

Check to see if you need proof of onward travel before you arrive at the airport. This is an entry requirement in many countries.

Plane ticket in passport

6. Make Sure There’s Time (and Space) in Your Passport 🛃

Most countries in Southeast Asia require you to have at least six months validity on your passport. They’ll also want to see several empty pages. If your passport is nearing the end of its life, replace it before travelling! 

7. Keep Copies of Vital Documents (Hard, Digital and Online) 💻

Keeping copies of your passport, insurance documents, flight tickets and relevant medical information is important. If you lose the originals, having copies will speed up the process of replacing them. 

We recommend printed hard copies, a digital copy on your phone and a backup version in the cloud! 

8. Get Travel Insurance

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Backpacking without insurance could cost you an arm and a leg (literally) if something goes wrong. 

Man stressed while looking for travel insurance
Choosing travel insurance can be stressful but it’s worthwhile!

Hopefully, you’ll never need it but you’ll regret not being insured if you wind up requiring help!

Read More: 

👉 How To Choose Travel Insurance

👉 When To Buy Travel Insurance

👉 Motorcycle Insurance for Southeast Asia

9. Download Travel Apps 📱

Having a suite of useful travel apps on your phone helps streamline your travel experience. From currency conversion to booking accommodation or transport, the right apps mean less time researching and more time exploring! 

Trail Wallet is a good app for tracking what you spend on the road.” – Gemma.

“Register for the GRAB App. Southeast Asia’s equivalent of Uber will be your best friend.” – Sean.

“Download MAPS.ME. This handy app allows you to view maps offline wherever you are in the world, which is perfect if you can’t get access to WIFI or 3G!” – Victoria.

Phones and SIM Cards -
Travel apps help travel go smoothly!

10. Join Facebook Groups 😄

There’s no better place to get information than from backpackers on the ground. Find a ton of travellers and get your questions answered in our South East Asia Backpacker Community!

“Join some Facebook Groups! Chatting to people before you travel and sharing your itinerary and ideas with others can really help to ease your nerves before you set off on an adventure!” Stephen

11. Get Lots of Passport Photos Before You Leave Home 📷

You’ll need them when going across land borders and arranging VOAs. While you can get passport photos on the road, they’ll be much cheaper at home! 

“Get lots of passport photos before you travel. You will need them for many visas in Southeast Asia and it will save you time/hassle/money trying to get them done in each country!” David.

Travel Tips for Southeast Asia

Let’s face it, travelling ain’t easy but these tips for backpacking Southeast Asia will provide you with a good base to start from! 

Kelingking beach nusa penida - Nusa Lembongan Guide Picss
There’s so much to see in Southeast Asia!

12. No Travel Buddy, No Problem ♂️♀️

Don’t be afraid to travel solo. On the whole, Southeast Asia is incredibly safe, easy to navigate and full of other travellers looking to make friends!

“Travel alone. Just once in your life, set off on an adventure all by yourself with no plans and no strings attached.” – Sharron.

Also read: Safest Asian Cities and Safest Asian Countries.

13. Get off the Beaten Track 🛤

Southeast Asia is a wonderful destination but many of the most popular spots feel very westernised. Tourism has brought a ton of money to the region and some places have lost their ‘authenticity.’ To experience the ‘real Asia’ get off the beaten track a little. 

14. The Beaten Track Is Well Beaten for a Reason 👍

While getting off the beaten track is amazing, don’t stress about spending time at tourist spots or in hostels full of westerners. The most popular locations are popular for a reason and refusing to visit because there are too many tourists will be doing yourself a disservice. Balance is key!

Plus, who doesn’t like pizza from time to time?! ??

Angkor Wat Temples at Sunrise.
Angkor Wat at sunrise – Busy but amazing!

15. Be Aware of Local Holidays and Festivals 📿

Travel can get complicated and expensive during local holidays and festivals. Know when these are and book accommodation and transport well in advance.

Read More: 

👉 Backpacking During Ramadan | Travelling In Southeast Asia

👉 Calendar Of Events and Festivals In Southeast Asia

16. Use Hostels to Meet Other Travellers 🛌

Meeting other travellers is one of the best parts of backpacking. Choose a hostel that’s known for lively events and a good atmosphere for the best chance of meeting like-minded travellers! 

“If you’re travelling alone, book your first few nights in a dorm room a sociable hostel in Southeast Asia. These places are designed to help travellers meet each other and you’ll make travel buddies in no time! If you’re arriving in Thailand, these Bangkok hostels are a good place to start.” – Nikki.

Lullaby Hostel - cooking class
Hostels offer a great place to meet folks!

17. Slow Down and Plan Chill Days 😎

Travel can be stressful and burnout is a real thing. To avoid getting overwhelmed, plan for ‘days off’ Whether it’s a night away from dorms or a day in front of Netflix, budget for time to recharge. 

“Travelling is tiring! Don’t feel pressured to try to see every single thing in each place and don’t be afraid to take days off and just do nothing.” – Laura.

Girls chilling by the pool at Mad Moneky Hostel Bangkok
Don’t be afraid to spend a day chilling by the pool!

18. Learn Some Local Language 🗣️

Learning “hello,” “please,” and “thank you” will go a long way. You’ll get a great reception if you can say a few local words or phrases. Learn some numbers and if you don’t like spicy food, master asking for food without spice – mai ped krap!

“Learn a bit of the local language. I wished that I had learnt more local languages before I left for Asia. I missed out on so many more possible interactions with great people.” – Jason.

Read More: 

👉 Useful Thai Phrases For Ordering Food In Thailand

👉 99 Useful Thai Phrases For Travellers

👉 Useful Indonesian (Bahasa) Phrases For Travellers

YouTube video

19. Read Reviews

Whether it’s accommodation, tours or transport, reading reviews will give you a good idea of what to expect. Reviews from other travellers are better for you than reviews from locals. They’ll have similar needs, desires and expectations to yourself! 

20. Remove Your Shoes 👟

In Southeast Asia, taking off your shoes before entering temples, massage parlours and various other buildings is mandatory – you’ll probably be asked to leave them in a pile at the door.

21. Pick Your Countries Wisely 🌏

Don’t rush through the region. If you’re on a limited schedule, visit a couple of locations and get to know each place. Two weeks in and around Chiang Mai will be more rewarding than trying to visit the entirety of Thailand. Likewise, spending six weeks in Thailand is preferable to visiting three neighbouring countries for a couple of weeks each. 

Boat on Lake CraigLovell_CocoHostel_Khao Sok Thailand
Giving yourself time to explore means you can uncover amazing destinations!

22. Avoid Temple Burnout 🙏🏻

Temple burnout really is a thing. Southeast Asia is full of magnificent temples but if you’re not careful, they start to feel very samey. Rather than visiting every temple you can, budget a couple of days a week to see them – or maybe prioritise the most impressive. This way you’ll truly be able to appreciate them. 

Yogyakarta Prambanan Temple
There are a ton of temples in Southeast Asia – avoid burnout!

23. Avoid Burning Season 🔥

Burning season is when farmers clear their fields (or the jungle) to make room for the next planting. Smoke from the fires chokes swathes of the region and it’s not uncommon to see air pollution reach dangerous levels for extended periods. Travel during this time can be uncomfortable and unpleasant.

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are at their worst from September-October while Northern Thailand and Laos are worst from March-May. 

Field on fire during burning season in Southeast Asia
During burning season, the air fills with smoke!

24. Don’t Stress About the Weather ⛈

The phrase ‘monsoon season’ conjures images of flash floods and relentless downpours. While this is possible, it’s not constant. Travelling during rainy season can be rewarding and magical – not to mention more adventurous!

“Don’t worry too much about the weather. Before I left home I was freaking out about the fact that part of my trip fell into the rainy season. Turns out I loved the huge downpours and cooler temperatures in the afternoons and as long as I planned my day accordingly, I was still able to do everything that I wanted to do. Don’t try to avoid it, just go with the flow…” – Donna.

👉 Read More: Best Time To Visit Southeast Asia – Climate Planner

25. Buy a Poncho

Whether it’s rainy season or not, a plastic poncho will be your best friend. They’re cheap, packable and weigh almost nothing! Plus, they protect almost your entire body and keep your backpack dry!

“Buy a poncho. Southeast Asia is prone to downpours. Do as the locals do.” – Jane.

A tropical storm brews in Koh Phangan, Thailand.
You’ll be grateful for a poncho when the rain arrives!

26. You Don’t Need a Guidebook 📚

Guidebooks take up a ton of space in your backpack and you’ll always find more up-to-date information on the internet. Plus, hostels usually have a stack for communal use!

“Don’t take a Lonely Planet Guidebook. They are heavy and outdated and old guidebooks are at every hostel to flick through!” – Nathan.

27. Unless You Really Like Them ❤️

Every backpacking trip is a personal journey. If you really like carrying a guidebook, go ahead! We won’t judge you! ?

28. Avoid Travelling During Festive Season 🎅

Prices go up around the holidays – especially in very touristy places. If you’re going to be abroad during this time, plan ahead. Book your accommodation in advance and avoid taking long bus journeys or flights!

“Avoid travelling during festive seasons. At Christmas and New Year the prices for accommodation and tours can double or triple! Avoid touristy places during this time.” – Lynn

Transport Tips for Southeast Asia

Transport in Southeast Asia isn’t always smooth sailing. These Southeast Asian transport tips will help keep you moving, even when morale is low! 

29. Prepare for Long Bus Journeys 🚌

Long bus journeys are an integral part of backpacking in Southeast Asia. Learn to be comfortable on them! Motion sickness tablets are a must if you’re prone to nausea, warm layers are important because the A/C will be cranked up to ‘arctic’ and something to keep your mind busy is vital. A Kindle, book, or a stack of podcasts will do the job.

“Inflatable neck pillows are crucial for overnight buses and long-haul flights.” – Phil.

The Sleeper Bus That Runs The Hanoi to Luang Prabang Route
Long bus journeys are part and parcel of travelling in Southeast Asia!

30. Research Taxi Prices Ahead of Time 🕓

Make sure you know how much a taxi costs in each new city or country. Arriving in a new place tired and uncomfortable makes you a prime target for unscrupulous taxi drivers. Knowing how much you should pay will prevent you being ripped off!

31. Agree Taxi Prices Before Getting in 🤝

Always agree on the price of a ride before getting into a taxi and never put your bags in the car until this is sorted. If you’re not comfortable with the price, walk away. There’s always another taxi. 

32. Public Transport Is the Cheapest Way of Getting Around 🚇

Do your bit to save the planet (and your $$$) and use public transport! It’s by far the cheapest way of navigating around Southeast Asia. Sure, it can sometimes be uncomfortable and stressful but you’ll get some of your best travel stories from using public transport!

Backpackers in a songthaew
Use public transport to save money!

33. Be Aware of Each City’s Public Transport System 🚍

No two Southeast Asian cities are the same when it comes to transport systems. Some, like Bangkok, have excellent train and metro systems. Others, like Chiang Mai, rely on songthaews. Tuk-tuks and chicken buses are common across Southeast Asia and in the Philippines, Jeepneys are common. Public transport in Southeast Asia is a rite of passage for any traveller! 

34. Learn To Ride a Motorcycle 🏍️

Hiring a motorcycle in Southeast Asia opens up a world of freedom. Motorbikes or scooters allow you to visit lesser-known spots and deliver adventures not experienced by the majority of backpackers.

“Learn to drive a motorbike. It’s only scary for a day, but it will show you more of Southeast Asia than any travel blog ever could.” – Tyler.

👉Read More: International Driving Permits for Cars and Motorbikes

Motorbiking around Hoi An
Motorcycles open a whole new world of travel!

35. But Don’t Be Pressured Into It 😩

If you don’t want to ride a motorbike, don’t. The roads in Southeast Asia can be hectic and it’s possible to travel throughout the region without a scooter. It’s your trip, don’t let anyone dictate it! 

36. Use GRAB 🚗

GRAB is Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber. It’s so good that Uber gave up and pulled out of the region! It features dynamic pricing, is cheaper than taxis and it’s safe and reliable! 

“Register for the GRAB App. Southeast Asia’s equivalent of Uber will be your best friend.” – Sean.

Read More:
👉 Is There Uber in Thailand?
👉 Is There Uber in Cambodia?
👉 Is There Uber in Malaysia?

37. Book via 12Go Asia ✈️⛴

When it comes to pre-booking transport in Southeast Asia, look no further than 12Go Asia. The platform allows you to book planes, trains, busses, ferries and transfers with ease. A ton of popular routes can be booked in a single click and connections are often guaranteed!

“If you want to book transport in advance, 12Go.Asia is a handy website for reserving train, bus, boat and flight tickets.” – William.

Money Tips for Southeast Asia

Money makes the world go round and that applies to you too backpacker!. These financial tips for Asia will help you get the biggest bang for your buck! 

38. Local Beer Is Cheaper Than Imported Beer 🍺

When it comes to money-saving tips for Southeast Asia, choosing local beer is among the best we can give. Not only are these significantly cheaper – often less than half the price – but the local tipples can’t be beaten! 

Read More:

👉 The Best Beers In Thailand

👉 Bia Hoi: The Best Backpacker Beer In The World?

👉 The Backpacker Beer And Curry Guide To Southeast Asia

Bia Hoi: The Best Backpacker Beer in the World?
Opt for the local tipple!

39. Have a Budget in Mind 💰

You don’t have to be fanatical in sticking to it but having a travel budget helps ensure your trip lasts as long as it should. Too many backpackers have been forced to bail early because they blew too much money in month one – budgeting will help you avoid this!

Read More:

👉 How Much Does Really It Cost To Travel In Southeast Asia?

👉 Backpacking On A Shoestring: 28 Budget Travel Tips

40. Haggle 🤑

Love it or hate it, haggling is an intrinsic part of travelling in Southeast Asia. It’s not considered rude or obnoxious (if you do it right), so it’s time to get your bargaining boots on! 

“Learn how to haggle appropriately. It isn’t rude. It’s all part of Southeast Asian culture and it will save you a fortune along the way!” – Ian.

Local market in Southeast Asia
Local markets are a great place to practice haggling!

41. Take Night Buses 🚐🌕

Sure, they’re often uncomfortable, the A/C is cranked too high and you’re liable to get stuck listening to crappy music over tinny speakers, but night buses are a godsend for backpackers. They’re cheap, cover long distances and save you having to pay for a bed! 

42. Take Some Emergency USD 💵

As with much of the world, the closest thing to a universal currency in Southeast Asia is the US dollar. You won’t be able to spend these everywhere but you’ll certainly be able to exchange them on the backpacker circuit! Stash a couple of hundred somewhere safe, so you’ve always got an emergency supply! 

US Dollar notes
Dollars are the closest thing to an international currency!

43. Cash vs Cards 💸

Cash is still king in Southeast Asia. Whether you’re buying from a street food vendor, market stall or paying for tours, cash is often the only way of paying. Make sure you have plenty on you for day-to-day expenses! 

44. Know Where the ATMs Are 🏧

You don’t have to get too far off the beaten track in Southeast Asia before ATMs become sparse. Always research to see whether your next stop is well served by cashpoints – this is especially important if you’re heading to some of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful islands. If there’s no ATM, make sure you’re well stocked with cash!

ATM machines
ATMs aren’t always this prevalent!

45. Have More Than One Debit Card 💳

You never know when you’ll lose a bank card. Having at least one backup is vital. Having two is even better.

 We recommend carrying at least one Visa and one Mastercard because some places only accept one of these. This also provides another option in the event of a payment provider failure. 

46. Remember to Take Your Card 🏦

It’s not uncommon for ATMs in Southeast Asia to give you your money before returning your card. Wait for your card – don’t just take your money and leave! 

“Remember to pick up your card from the ATM. Unlike in other countries, when using an ATM in Southeast Asia, the cash comes out first, followed by your card. Lots of people are so used to getting their card first, that they forget to pick it up afterwards and lose their cards. Try to use ATMs that are connected to banks while they’re open.” Ian.

Monzo bank card
Remember to take your card back from the ATM!

47. Get a Mobile Bank Account (or Two)👨🏻‍💻

Having a mobile bank account offers maximum flexibility as you travel. You’ll get full control of the account through your phone, meaning you never have to worry about visiting a physical branch! The best mobile banks have no fees for currency conversion, using your card abroad or withdrawing money from a foreign ATM! 

“Open an account with a mobile bank. I always use my Starling bank card when I am backpacking. This means that I can avoid most bank fees (though unfortunately not ATM fees)!” – Sheree.

👉 Read More: Starling Bank Review – The Best Card For Travellers?

Revolut bank card.
Mobile banks can save a ton of money on fees!

48. Access Your Bank Accounts Without Your Phone 📝

If you lose your phone, you’ll need a way to get into your bank account. Keep usernames and passwords somewhere safe, so you can log in from any device. Try to keep a hard copy and a copy saved into the cloud somewhere – just make sure both are safe and secure! 

49. Say Yes – Even if It’s Expensive 💲

I’ve never met a traveller who regretted spending a big chunk of money on a good tour or trip. But I’ve met plenty who regret turning down an opportunity to do something amazing because of the price. You’ll only ever be in the same place at the same moment once, don’t turn opportunities down! 

“Never say no. Always do the spontaneous things that you never say yes to back home. And spend the money. I saw too many people say no because they thought it was too expensive. Well, who cares, just go for it!” – Simon.

View From The Balcony Dora Cruise Ship Lan Ha Vietnam
A Lan Ha Bay tour can be expensive but well worth the money!

Packing Tips for Southeast Asia

These packing tips for Southeast Asian travel will help you avoid the stress of cramming in that fourth pair of shoes!

50. Get a Backpack 🎒

Get your backpack well ahead of time and make sure you can get everything in! You may need to rethink your travel wardrobe or get a bigger pack for all your gear to fit. 

The best size backpack for travel is around 40 litres. But if you need more space, anything up to 55 litres is good – remember anything over 40 is likely too big for hand luggage! 

“Take a small backpack. A 40L backpack is all you need to travel Southeast Asia. You’ll be surprised how much you can fit in and you don’t have to check it in on flights! I swear by my Osprey Farpoint 40L.” – Jaimee.

Read More: 

👉 The Best Backpacks For Travel

👉 9 Top Travel Backpacks For Women

Salkan Mainpack Backpack
You’ll need a backpack!

51. Don’t Forget Your Daypack 🧳

A daypack will be with you almost every day while travelling. Ideal for both day-to-day essentials and keeping your valuables close to hand, you should make sure it’s comfortable and durable! 

Read More:

👉 The Best Daypacks For Travel

👉 Packable Daypacks For Travel | Top Picks For Stowable Bags  

52. Packing Cubes Are Your Best Friend 💪

Use packing cubes to keep your gear organised. They help compress your clothes, so you can get more in your backpack! 

“Packing cubes are amazing! The best way to organise all of your clothes and toiletries in your backpack. I packed all my tops/dresses in one, bottoms in one, underwear & bikinis in another etc. They pack down small and fit in the bag perfectly every time!” – Gemma.

Packing Cubes for Backpacking
Packing cubes keep your stuff organised and easy to find!

53. Pack Light ⚖️

Stuff is cheap in Southeast Asia and it’s better to take too little and buy stuff there than take too much and have to throw stuff away. Plus, laundry is super cheap across the region, so you can afford to get your clothes washed as often as you like! 

“Don’t pack too much. You can shop for everything you need in Southeast Asia.” – Yogi.

54. Take a Sarong 🏖️

One of our favourite packing tips for Southeast Asia is to take a sarong. They’re cool, lightweight and can be worn in all manner of ways! 

“Add a sarong to your packing list! Blanket, pillow, cover-up, headscarf, skirt, sun-towel, washing basket and dress all in one!” – Jenny.

55. Pack Good Sunglasses 🕶

While you can always find cheap sunglasses on a local market, there’s no guarantee they’ll be any good. Sunglasses should always have a good level of UV protection – UV400 is the gold standard. Cheap sunglasses rarely have this level of protection (even if they say they do).

We recommend bringing a pair of good-quality sunglasses from home – your eyes will thank you!

Two girls sunbathing on a beach
You need good sunglasses in Southeast Asia!

56. Don’t Bring Clothes You Care About 👗

Stuff gets trashed while travelling. Leave your best clothes at home. Despite what Instagram wants you to think, no one cares what you look like on the road anyway! 

“Don’t pack clothes that you really care about. Nice clothes will get ruined.” – Phil.

57. Leave Space in Your Backpack 🛍️

You’re bound to want to do some shopping as your travel. Leave some space at the top of your pack so you can fit in your new purchases!

“Leave space in your backpack. Don’t overpack and leave space in your backpack for buying new things. The markets are amazing, so you’ll want to shop when you get here!” – Jess.

58. Take an E-reader 📖

Books are great but they’re heavy and take up a bunch of space. An e-reader is much lighter and can store hundreds, if not thousands, of books at a time! 

“Pack a Kindle. I love the smell of books, but Kindles are much lighter to carry and so convenient!” – Sarah

An E-reader packs hours of entertainment into a tiny package!

59. Bring Enough Underwear & Swimwear 👙

Don’t rely on finding well-fitting women’s underwear or swimwear in Southeast Asia. Everything affordable is tiny, uncomfortable and covered in ridiculous patterns. Make sure you bring what you need!

“Bring underwear/swimwear. Sizes in Southeast Asia can make the skinniest girls feel fat! Don’t wait until you arrive in Asia to buy a bikini, it is damn near impossible! And bring enough knickers, unless you’re a fan of really tight, polyester, granny style knickers with cartoons on.” – Lisa.

60. Take a Small Padlock 🔒

A small padlock has a bunch of uses while travelling. Fasten your bag on buses, secure your gear in hostels, or in some places, even keep your bedroom door locked! 

Health and Hygiene Tips for Southeast Asia

Health and hygiene are underrated. These tips for staying safe and well in Southeast Asia are arguably the most important travel tips we can give!

61. Get Your Vaccines 💉

Check with your doctor about which vaccines are required and recommended for travel to Southeast Asia. 

“Make sure your vaccines are up-to-date. Most vaccines you will need to get in advance.” – Novi.

vaccine image
Love ’em or hate ’em vaccines are important for backpackers!

62. Try the Bum Gun – It Might Change Your Life 💩

More economical than toilet paper and offering a more thorough clean, the bum gun is ubiquitous throughout Asia. It can take some getting used to but learning to clean your backside with a jet of water is one of our top hygiene tips for Southeast Asia! 

“Embrace the bum gun! You will never look back.” – Stu.

63. Learn to Use a Squat Toilet 🚾

You’re unlikely to find squat toilets in your accommodation but while travelling throughout Asia, you will see them. Learning to use a squat toilet will ensure you can relieve yourself anywhere! 

Squat toilet in Southeast Asia
Squat toilets can be a challenge initially!

64. Don’t Drink Tap Water 💧

Across most of Asia, tap water is a no-go for travellers. Tap water in Malaysia and Singapore is the safest but it’s still recommended to at least boil it first. We always recommend using a water purifier when travelling across Southeast Asia. 

Filtered water bottles allow you to drink tap water from anywhere. This saves you a ton of money on bottled water and reduces your plastic footprint while travelling! 

“Buy a filtered water bottle. Save on plastic as you travel and be able to drink from the tap without fear of getting sick!” – Conor.

Read More:

👉 Grayl GeoPress Review

👉 Grayl GeoPress vs UltraPress

👉 Grayl UltraPress Review

👉 LARQ Purifying Bottle Review

Grayl GeoPress
A purifier allows you to drink from anywhere!

65. Sanitary Products Are Hard to Come By 🩸

If you use tampons, bring plenty with you, they’re hard to come by in Southeast Asia! Or, if you’ve not already transitioned to using a menstrual cup, now could be the time to start! 

“Bring sanitary items with you. If you’re a tampon user, bring enough with you. They’re incredibly tough to find (depending on country/city) and overpriced.” – Jess.

66. Beware of Whitening Products 🧴

The beauty industry has a lot to answer for and that’s just as true in Asia as anywhere else. A lot of Asian cosmetics will contain chemicals to whiten the skin (aka bleach). Beware of this when buying skin products. 

“Watch out for the whitening toiletry products! Deodorant, face wash and even shower gel often contain whitener in Asia. Make sure you avoid any of these products!” – Tyler.

67. Carry Toilet Paper 🧻

Toilet paper isn’t as readily available in public toilets as you’re used to back home. Carry some with you at all times. Even if you’re a bum gun master, it’s nice to pat yourself dry! 

“Carry toilet paper. Be prepared for that time the bum gun isn’t working and there’s no toilet paper!” – Jess.

👉 Read More: 9 Toilet Paper Alternatives Inspired By Asia

Asian Travel Inspired Toilet Paper Alternatives
You never know when you’ll need some extra loo roll!

68. Bring Mosquito Repellent From Home 🦟

If you want a mosquito repellent that actually works, you need one with DEET, Picaridin, PMD or IR3535. These can be hard to come by in some parts of Southeast Asia so bring some with you from home. 

Citronella repellents are available throughout the region and are better than nothing but don’t rely on them – they’re proven to reduce insect bites a little but not enough to be effective

“Bring DEET mosquito repellent with you from home. Despite the prevalence of Dengue Fever and Malaria in some places, it can be difficult to buy mosquito and bug repellent that has a high concentration of DEET in many parts of Southeast Asia. Even if you prefer natural repellents, it’s good to have some powerful stuff as backup, especially in the rainy season.” – Dave.

69. Bring Suncream ☀️

Suncream is expensive in Asia. Bring as much from home as you’re allowed to save yourself some money! 

“Buy suncream at home before you leave! It is so expensive in Southeast Asia! About three times the price than in the UK.” – Katie.

Accommodation Tips for Southeast Asia

These tips for accommodation in Asia will help you get a good night’s rest!

70. Check All the Booking Sites

While old-school backpackers will sing the virtues of never booking accommodation and just shopping around when you get to a destination, that’s not really the world we live in anymore (although, it is still possible). 

The best accommodation booking tip we can give is to check all the sites. Booking.com, Hostelworld and Agoda are all super popular in Southeast Asia – shop around to find the best prices! 

“I Use Booking.com to book hostels. All of the accommodation I book is cancellable through Booking.com, so I can always change my plans – which I often do!” – Lindsey.

👉 Read More: Booking vs Hostelworld vs Agoda — Booking Sites Compared

Start A Travel Blog In 9 Easy Steps
Check all the booking sites before committing!

71. Remember Your Ear Plugs 👂

This is especially true if you’re a light sleeper. Dorm rooms can be noisy places. People snoring, leaving early, arriving late or god forbid, getting up close and personal in the bunk above… Ear plugs will help you sleep through most activities – they might not help if your bed is rocking though!

72. Screenshot Accommodation Addresses, Maps and Confirmations 🗺️

Having everything downloaded means you won’t be stuck if your taxi driver hasn’t heard of the hostel, or if your accommodation can’t find you in their booking system. Keeping it offline ensures all the information you need is ready at your fingertips rather than needing to find WiFi! 

73. Choose the Right Hostel for You 🎉

There are plenty of different types of hostel. Some are party central while others are much more chilled. Some have great WiFi and are built for digital nomads and others are aimed at specific types of travellers like yogis or surfers. Shop around to find the perfect hostel for your needs!

Partying at Vietnam Backpackers Hostels, Hanoi.
Don’t expect a quite night’s sleep at a party hostel!

Tips for Staying Connected for Southeast Asia

Not everyone wants to be online on the road but if you do, these tips for staying connected while travelling are an important read! 

74. Get a Local SIM Card 📶

Getting a local SIM card is the way to go. They’re cheap and easy to come by in most places. If possible, set up your normal home mobile number on an e-sim. This way you don’t have to worry about misplacing your SIM card and you can dual-wield two numbers at a time! 

“Buy a local SIM card in each country. Instead of hunting for WiFi all the time, SIM cards are cheap and easy to recharge and the coverage (3G/4G) is pretty incredible even in some of the most remote places!” – Brad.

SIM card for iPhone
Find a local sim if you want to stay connected!

75. WiFi Is Commonplace in Southeast Asia 🌐

WiFi is generally reliable for basic tasks but if you’re looking for a high-speed connection, it might take some hunting out. 

76. Use a VPN 🤫

If you use a lot of shared WiFi networks in Southeast Asia, you’ll want to protect yourself from prying eyes – especially if you’re doing online banking, making big purchases or working while you travel. A VPN also allows you to access geo-blocked content, so you’ll still be able to watch The Apprentice from the pool! 

Ethical Tips for Southeast Asia

While very few backpackers do wrong out of malice, many of us have made mistakes from ignorance. Don’t let that be you, check out these tips for how to travel ethically in Southeast Asia! 

77. Avoid Animal Tourism 🐘

It should go without saying but we’ll say it anyway; avoid Tiger Temple and don’t ride a bloody elephant. But it goes further than this. 

Avoid tours where guides are known to feed the wildlife. Don’t drink snake wine and avoid any ‘sanctuaries’ that offer photo opportunities with animals. Posing for a photo isn’t normal animal behaviour. If something seems unnatural, it probably is.

“Avoid animal tourism. Don’t ride elephants or go diving/snorkelling where they feed the marine life.” – Rosa.

👉 Read More:

Elephant at BEES
If you want to see elephants, make sure it’s ethical!

78. Respect Local Culture 🕊️

Visiting Southeast Asia for the first time delivers a massive dose of culture shock – things aren’t the same as back home! There are plenty of things you’d do back home that just aren’t okay in Southeast Asia. Here are a few important ones: 

  • Don’t speak ill of the monarchy (if relevant)
  • Don’t disrespect the gods
  • Dress modestly – cover your knees and shoulders when visiting a temple
  • Don’t point your feet at people
  • Don’t wear shoes in holy places

“Respect the local culture of Southeast Asia. Don’t think that all of Southeast Asia is an enormous beach where you can show your belly and your legs everywhere!” – Rosa.

👉 Read More: Backpackers! Give A Little Respect…

79. Avoid Plastic Where You Can 🥤

There’s enough plastic in the world already. Try to avoid using more while travelling. You only have to look at some of Southeast Asia’s beaches to see the environmental impact plastic is having. Avoid straws, plastic bags and plastic cutlery whenever possible.

👉 Read More: Plastic Free Essentials For Travellers

Plastic cup on the beach in Southeast Asia.
Avoid plastic if you can!

Food Tips for Southeast Asia

Food. Is there any greater joy in life? These Asian food tips will make sure your taste buds are happy and your stomach satiated!

80. Street Food 🍜

If you’re looking for cheap, delicious food in Southeast Asia, street food is the answer! Don’t be put off by the tiny plastic chairs and questionable hygiene standards, a busy street food vendor will offer some of the best food you’ve ever tasted! 

“Eat at the same time of day as the locals do. At lunch and dinner times there will be a high turnover of food which will mean that your food is as fresh as possible! This is especially important at local street food places in India and Sri Lanka.” – Tim.

👉 Read More: 34 Best Street Foods in Asia & How to Find Them!

Street food in Laos
Street food = the best food!

81. Try All the Local Dishes 🥡

We’re all guilty of finding a dish we love and eating nothing but that while travelling. But doing this seriously limits your experience. There’s so much more to Vietnamese food than Phở or Bánh mì and there’s way more going on in Thailand than Pad Thai. Try as much as you can to truly experience the local cuisine! 

👉 Read More: Southeast Asian Cuisine | A Food-Lover’s Guide

82. Beware the Spice 🌶️

Be warned that Southeast Asia is a hotbed of spices! If you don’t like spicy food, refer to tip 18 and learn how to ask for food without! 

👉 Read More: Thai Chili: If It’s Not Spicy, It’s Not Tasty!

Thai Chili: If It’s Not Spicy, It’s Not Tasty!
There’s a lot of chilli in Southeast Asia!

Safety Tips for Southeast Asia

Asia is generally a pretty safe continent but things still happen. These safety tips for Southeast Asia will help you be informed and avoid unnecessary risks!

83. Stash Money in Different Places 👜

Always split cash across different bags. This way, if something gets lost or stolen, you won’t lose everything at once! 

“Stash your money in different places! Having all the cash you just took out of the ATM in your wallet is risky, especially on travel days. Hiding some in different places (bra, shoes, socks, two wallets etc) makes a big difference if you’re robbed and/or lose your bag. This tip has helped me a lot several times!” – Kerri.

84. Beware of Scams ⚠️

As with anywhere in the world, there are some common travel scams to look out for in Southeast Asia. Whether it’s Cambodia’s baby milk scam, the classic closed monument or a bunch of different taxi scams, know what to look for and how to avoid them!

One Final Tip for Southeast Asia

85. You’ll Feel Overwhelmed – Go With It 🤩

Even with all the knowledge you’ve just gained from these Southeast Asia travel tips, don’t be surprised if you still feel overwhelmed. Southeast Asia is like nowhere else on earth and it can take some getting used to. 

But trust us, a few days of nervously trying to understand how the region works is an acceptable trade-off for the weeks, months or even years of joy it can deliver! 

So what are you waiting for? In the words of Russell from Up, “Adventure Is Out There!”

Do you have an amazing Southeast Asian travel tip that could help other backpackers? Let us know in the comments!

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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